We didn’t get our newspaper this morning. Not the end of the world, I know, but humans are creatures of habit and one of mine is skimming the paper while I have my breakfast. We didn’t get it yesterday either. These are not weather-related issues; other than the bitter cold, the weather is fine. I reached out to the NY Times yesterday – they had another paper here by early afternoon. Hopefully that repeats itself today. I also let them know that these two incidents have become more common of late and I’m getting concerned.
Why am I telling you this? No, it’s not my usual ranting about some slight. There is a business lesson in here. Strangely, I used to use this exact thing as an example many years ago when I would meet with advertisers to talk about media planning. I’d talk then about the newspaper business and how many millions were spent hiring reporters and editors, salespeople and printers. I’d talk about the money invested in paper and in presses and in ink. I’d mention the thousands of people who print and publish and distribute a newspaper. Which is then given to a kid on a bicycle to get to the home. My point then was about the junior people were entrusted with taking marketing plans and advertising strategies and making them happen efficiently without a clear understanding of everything that had gone on previously.
The point today is a similar but broader one. I’ve subscribed to home delivery of the Times, according to my account, since 1992. My lifetime value to them is already into the tens of thousands of dollars. The kid on the bicycle (ok, it’s a guy in a car that needs a muffler) has me wondering if I am better off just buying the paper and maybe not every day. By comparison, the other papers I take have come every day without fail. The last link in a huge business but the one that has a long-time customer questioning the product’s value.
We all need to think about who rides the bicycles in our businesses. A beautiful office can seem less so if the receptionist is rude to guests. The aforementioned junior person who executes plans by rote with no real understanding of “why” is that same weak spot. As managers we need to ride along behind, checking off each delivery. We need to make sure the delivery kid knows the route and we need to motivate them to do their job as well as we do ours – maybe even better (don’t throw the paper in the mud, kid).
Who rides the bicycles in your business? Who is the last link between your brand and your customer? When was the last time you paid attention to that link? Any thoughts?